A long shot for Geithner as he begins Beijing talks
BEIJING — Timothy F. Geithner, the U.S. Treasury secretary, came to Beijing on Tuesday hoping to persuade Chinese leaders to toughen their diplomatic stance toward Iran and soften their opposition to fiscal changes like a stronger renminbi that might help the U.S. economy.
By many accounts, including some from the Chinese themselves, his odds of success are long. But on other issues, led by the need to address Europe’s debt problems, the two sides may find more to agree on.
Geithner, the point man for the Obama administration’s economic dealings with the Chinese, arrives here as fiscal and trade relations show signs of fraying. The Chinese slapped stiff tariffs last month on imports of U.S. automobiles and opened an investigation in November into U.S. government subsidies to renewable-energy industries.
On the U.S. side, President Barack Obama left China out of a trade pact with East Asian countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that he announced in November. Washington is investigating or formally pursing trade disputes on a range of goods, like solar panels, broiler chickens and steel pipes.
Geithner’s arrival coincides with a report that Obama is creating an interagency task force to ferret out unfair trade and business practices by the Chinese.
That report, in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, said that Geithner would brief Chinese officials on the venture during his visit here.
U.S. corporations, involved in industries like telecommunications and financial services, have increasingly complained that China continues to restrict their access to domestic markets, despite pledges of openness when China joined the World Trade Organization a decade ago.
Differences aside, the economic relationship between the two countries has become so broad that Geithner and his counterparts are expected to find much to agree on.
In meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday with the vice prime ministers Wang Qishan and Li Keqiang, Vice President Xi Jinping and Premier Wen Jiabao, the two sides are expected to focus on ways to keep Europe’s debt crisis from dragging the global economy back into recession.
At the first meeting Tuesday evening, Wang alluded to the global role facing the two largest economies in the world, saying the U.S. and China were “having important cooperation in the multilateral and global arena in the areas of economy, finance, trade policies and also G-20 related affairs.”
The visit also offers a chance for a meeting with Xi, the presumed successor to President Hu Jintao, before Xi travels to the U.S. this year.
Yet Geithner seems unlikely to gain many concessions on the two issues that have been headlined for this visit: the valuation of the renminbi and U.S. efforts to impose new financial sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program.